Italy's President Gives Populists 24 Hours to Seek Coalition

Updated on
  • Five Star, League leaders hold talks in Rome parliament
  • Parties tell head of state they need more time for negotiation

Italy’s populists made a last-ditch effort to form a government together, asking President Sergio Mattarella to delay by 24 hours his plan to appoint a non-partisan premier.

Luigi Di Maio of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and Matteo Salvini of the euroskeptic League met on Wednesday at the Rome parliament, according to two lawmakers who declined to be named discussing confidential talks. A senior League official confirmed in a text message that Salvini and Di Maio met.

Luigi Di Maio

Photographer: Giulio Napolitano/Bloomberg

The two parties notified Mattarella that “talks are under way to reach a possible government accord, and that to pursue this they need 24 hours,” the presidency said in an emailed statement.

Mattarella granted the request, a senior state official said in a text message.

Five Star has offered to govern with the League, which leads a center-right alliance, but has insisted on the League breaking with its junior ally, Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party. Salvini has so far refused to break with ex-premier Berlusconi.

‘Neutral Government’

Mattarella had been expected to name the premier of what he calls “a neutral government” as early as Wednesday after political parties failed to agree on a ruling coalition in two months of negotiations since inconclusive March 4 general elections.

Di Maio told reporters earlier on Wednesday: “It’s not a veto on Berlusconi; it’s a wish to talk to the League. Full stop.” He said “we want to form a government with two political forces and not four,” in remarks cited by newswire Ansa.

Renato Brunetta, a senior lawmaker with Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, said the center-right alliance could be preserved even if the League and Five Star form a government without the ex-premier’s party. “If they want to form a government, let them do it,” he said. “The alliance remains because it’s worth a great deal to us, but no one can ask us to do more than that.”

“Depending on what kind of pact Salvini and Di Maio would be willing to make with Berlusconi, the negative market reaction may be severe or moderate,” LC Macro Advisors Ltd. founder Lorenzo Codogno, a former chief economist at the Italian Treasury, wrote in a note to clients. “If Berlusconi merely is squeezed out, an anti-establishment, anti-euro (although somewhat watered down) and anti-austerity government would not bode well for the BTP-Bund yield spread and Italian financial assets.”

The March 4 elections resulted in a hung parliament, with the center-right bloc ahead of Five Star but both short of a majority.

— With assistance by Jerrold Colten, Chiara Albanese, and Alessandra Migliaccio

(Updates with president granting request in fourth paragraph.)
    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE